Sunday, March 22, 2009

Can Winnipeg Save Pittsburgh?

Path dependence, along with the proximity rule, can make predicting migration patterns rather easy. The difficulty is the anticipation of pioneering relocation. Iceland's economy is in full-blown meltdown. That's good news for Winnipeg:

As in 1875, the next Icelandic wave is just what the doctor ordered for Manitoba. Then, the province needed hardy pioneers who would not shrink from cruel weather or hard work. That's who arrived from Iceland. Now, the province needs skilled and educated workers. Once again, that's what Iceland has on offer.

A sign of the newest Icelandic wave in Manitoba rose just after the collapse of the Icelandic banks last fall, when an architectural firm in Manitoba made it known in Iceland that it wanted to hire Icelandic architects. Two of three partners of Batteriid Ltd., a conculting architectural firm, responded and went to Manitoba in December. They travelled to Manitoba again in January along with an engineer from the engineering firm Almenna Verkfraedistofan Ltd. for further discussions and are planning the third trip soon.

When desperate for talent, there is no need to remake the wheel. Cultivating new migration flows is notoriously difficult. But once established, it can serve a region for generations. Pittsburgh should remember its Irish heritage because Ireland is undergoing another wave of emigration.

But there are other types of path dependent migrations. Domestic boomerang migration to the Rust Belt is of increasing significance. Networks are in place to better enable this talent pipeline. Russia is beginning to explore this opportunity in order to address a shrinking population:

Moscow has spent $300 million in the past two years to get the repatriation program started, and officials estimated that more than 25 million people were eligible, many of them ethnic Russians who found themselves living in former Soviet republics after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

I think of all the money thrown down the brain drain that could have been spent on something like Russia's approach to deal with its unfavorable demography. Millions of dollars are wasted every year on retaining people and no one seems interested in the effectiveness of these initiatives. Instead, the same mistakes are repeated and well-known realities of migration are ignored.

No comments: